The Italian authorities shut down 32 Telegram groups that offered fake COVID-19 passes to thousands of people. The criminals preferred cryptocurrency payments for the illegal service.
Cryptocurrencies in Exchange for a Green Pass
According to a recent report by Reuters, the Italian police halted the operation of several groups on the online messaging application Telegram. There, scammers offered fake COVID-19 health passes to people who wanted to bypass the law and get the certificates in exchange for cryptocurrencies.
The so-called Green Pass allows Italians who have already received at least one coronavirus vaccine shot, have recently recovered from the virus, or have tested negative to go to cinemas, gyms, museums, restaurants, etc.
The criminals did not have a fixed price for the illicit service, but one could buy it for up to 500 euros or $588. Still, the Italian officials did not disclose what type of digital assets the scammers accepted.
Italy has been one of the worst affected countries by the COVID-19 in Europe. Even though nearly 130,000 people passed away due to the virus, many residents are still hesitant to get vaccinated.
According to the information, around 20 million people have downloaded the Green Pass. However, whether all the certificates belong to people who have legally acquired them or have been part of the cryptocurrency fraud remains unclear.
COVID-19 Vaccines on The Darknet
This is not the first time scammers have tried to sell falsified coronavirus certificates in exchange for virtual assets.
As CryptoPotato reported in July, some users on the notorious Darkweb have been offering vaccination passports and even stolen doses of COVID-19 vaccines. The most desirable cryptocurrencies for the criminals were Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Litecoin (LTC), and Monero (XMR).
The blockchain analytics company Coinfirm explained that the fraudsters choose this payment method because of the anonymity and global popularity that cryptocurrencies provide.
The scam was so widespread that besides the popular vaccines such as Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, one could even purchase the Russian product Sputnik V.
The majority of the criminals offering these services were based in the Russian Federation or the USA. In contrast, Eastern Europeans were the ones who bought the most those vaccines and falsified passports. The estimated price of the products was $250 per 10 doses or the equivalent in digital assets.